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The history of wind in Japan

It’s more interesting than it sounds, I promise (like travel insurance). Let’s use all our senses (except taste) as we find out about the windy history of Japan…

The history of wind in Japan

The Divine Wind

How do you solve a problem like the Mongols? China dealt with them by building a ruddy great wall, but what was Japan supposed to do? The sea held the Mongols off for a bit, but they invaded in 1274 and made some good progress inland before being driven back by the Japanese.

But the Mongols weren’t easily dissuaded, and figured that they just needed more troops. They’d brought roughly 17,000 – 25,000 men the first time, but for the second attempt in 1281 they travelled over with a combined force of 142,000 soldiers and sailors (according to contemporary figures – modern historians argue that around 70,000 is a more reasonable estimate, but either way it was a whole lotta Mongols).

Japan hadn’t been idle either, having built and occupied some impressive coastal defences, but the Japanese defenders got super lucky. Starting on August 15th 1281, a massive typhoon blew into the area and battered it for two days, sinking much of the attacking fleet. Some of the sailors could tell the storm was coming and sensibly scarpered for a nearby harbour, which unfortunately did them no good at all and the ships sunk regardless.

After seeing the very heavens themselves assail the would-be invaders, the Japanese named the storm Kamikaze or “divine wind.”  After their mauling at the hands of the storm, the Mongols limped back to the mainland and decided that maybe Japan wasn’t worth the trouble after all.

Wind chimes

With all this wind rattling about, it’s perhaps not surprising that the Japanese developed the wonderful furin wind chimes. These beautiful chimes, made of glass, are a common sight and sound in Japan during the summer, and are even part of government efforts to counter noise pollution.

Way back in the day, it was believed that strong winds brought sickness so a bronze, bell shaped chime knowing as a futaka was hung, which served as a warning bell for strong winds. During the eighteenth century glassblowing techniques were introduced from Holland, bringing about the furin.

The glass bells have a strip of paper hanging from them, which catches the wind and moves the clapper, causing the wonderful sound, and also shows even slight breezes, helping you to feel cooler.

So there you have it, from storms saving the day to beautiful glass chimes, Japan has a long and interesting history with the wind.